The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series continues its West Coast swing stopping at Phoenix International Raceway for the Camping World 400k. Brian Brown took a look at past performances, season trends, and spoke with NASCAR contacts to predict how the field should finish on Sunday.
When: Sunday, March 15; 3:45 p.m./et.
Weather: Sunny with a high around 90; wind out of the ESE at 11 mph. There is a ZERO percent change of precipitation.
The Track: Phoenix International Raceway
PIRis a relatively flat (11 and nine degree banking in the corners) one mile oval. Drivers that tend to run fast at Richmond and New Hampshire are smart picks.
Key to Race: Can Anyone Touch Harvick?
Kevin Harvick is as hot as any driver in the past decade with six consecutive top-two finishes. And the streak looks to continue as he visits one of his favorite tracks, where he has won four of the last five races. If there is ever a MUST use driver it is the 2014 champion this weekend. We also anticipate all drivers from the Hendrick Motorsports Stable to continue bringing fast sleds, but they will be hard-pressed to beat “Happy” Harvick.
47 cars will qualify for 43 spots.
Fantasy Cheat Sheet:
No. 4 Kevin Harvick: Harvick has been simply awesome the past six races. USE HIM THIS WEEKEND.
No. 48 Jimmie Johnson: Johnson has 18 top 10 finishes in 24 career starts at PIR including four wins in the last 15 races at the track. If he can avoid blowing tires he should challenge Harvick for the checkers.
No. 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Junior cracked the top eight in both races last year at Phoenix. We love the way he is driving so far this year.
No. 22 Joey Logano: Logano cracked the top 11 in seven of his last 10 starts at PIR. He is a good pick this weekend.
No. 11 Denny Hamlin: Hamlin has been very successful atPIRduring his career including three top three finishes in the last six races. Another top five finish is expected.
6 to 10
No. 2 Brad Keselowski: Keselowski has eight top 20 finishes in 10 career starts at PIR. He should finish inside the top five this weekend.
No. 24 Jeff Gordon: Gordon won the 2011 spring race and finished second last fall at PIR. If he can change his current good run of bad-luck he will be tough to beat.
No. 5 Kasey Kahne: Kahne won the November 2011 race at Phoenix and finished second in the 2013 fall race. He was looking great at Las Vegas last week until he tangled with Carl Edwards. He is a buy-low driver at this point in the year.
No. 19 Carl Edwards: Edwards has two wins in the last eight races at Phoenix. He is a good pick.
No. 20 Matt Kenseth: Kenseth has finished inside the top six in six of the last 18 races
at PIR. He will once again bring a fast car.
11 to 20
No. 78 Martin Truex Jr.: Truex Jr. looks so comfortable driving right now. It is great to see him and his single-car team doing so well.
No. 42 Kyle Larson: Larson was off to a bit of a shaky start to the season before a strong finish at Vegas. Buy-low on last year’s Rookie of the Year.
No. 31 Ryan Newman: Newman was awesome in eight of the past 10 Phoenix races. He should solid again on Sunday.
No. 15 Clint Bowyer: Bowyer ran great races at Phoenix the past two springs. He could nail-down another top 10 finish with a little luck.
No. 47 A.J. Allmendinger: “Dinger” has been the surprise of the 2015 season so far. We like him, but at some point he will have to return to being a middle-of-the-packer.
No. 14 Tony Stewart: Smoke typically is one of the top drivers at PIR. We just don’t have faith in him right now.
No. 16 Greg Biffle: Biffle has had plenty of past success at PIR. He should have the No. 16 ride inside the top 20.
***UPDATE***No. 41 Regan Smith: With Kurt Busch not being criminally charged in the alleged domestic assault against his former girlfriend it is just a matter of time before Smith is bounced from the No. 41. Use him before he is back to being a field filler. Kurt Busch returns to the No. 41 car this weekend after NASCAR lifted his suspension. We will give him a race or two before feeling comfortable using him in fantasy leagues.
No. 43 Aric Almirola: Almirola cracked the top 20 in the past six races at Phoenix. We like him this weekend.
No. 13 Casey Mears: Mears had a great run at Phoenix last spring and he is off to a tremendous start to the 2015 season. He is a nice sleeper pick this weekend.
21 to 30
No. 1 Jamie McMurray: PIRhas been a tough place for Jamie Mac to get around for much of his career. Even with last weekend’s top 15 finish this isn’t the time to take a chance on him.
No. 27 Paul Menard: Menard is off to a solid 2015 campaign and has cracked the top 30 in all but one of his 16 career starts atPIR. We like him to continue the streak.
No. 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: “The Mullet” was great at Phoenix in the Nationwide Series and drove decent last year. He should bring the No. 17 near another top 20.
No. 3 Austin Dillon: Dillon was very average at PIR last year. There are better choices.
No. 55 Brian Vickers: It was great to see Vickers back behind the wheel of the No. 55 car last weekend. He has averaged a 24th place finish at PIR during his career and will take the checkers around the same position this visit.
No. 6 Trevor Bayne: Bayne has struggled in his new ride this season specifically with qualifying. Look for the No. 6 team to work hard on a fast qualifying setup this week.
Phoenix during her career. She isn’t worth using this weekend.
No. 51 Justin Allgaier: The “Riverton Rocket” wasn’t terrible at Phoenix last year. He isn’t a bad sleeper pick.
No. 34 Brett Moffitt
No. 30 Ron Hornaday Jr.
No. 26 Jeb Burton
No. 62 Brendan Gaughan
No. 38 David Gilliland
No. 40 Landon Cassill
No. 35 Cole Whitt
No. 33 Alex Kennedy
No. 7 Alex Bowman
No. 23 J.J. Yeley
No. 29 Reed Sorenson
No. 32 Mike Bliss
No. 98 Josh Wise
No. 83 Matt Dibenedetto
No. 66 Tanner Berryhill
No. 46 Michael Annett
No. 44 Travis Kvapil
My Yahoo! Fantasy NASCAR Team for this Week:
C. David Ragan